Your weekly briefing:
With the Senate’s passage of SB 3 to raise teacher and librarian salaries, and the House introducing a comprehensive school finance bill, education issues dominated the week at the Capitol. But with less than three months to go in the 86th Legislative Session, we still don’t know whether public school employees will get a raise, or whether school districts will receive more funding. Or…nothing at all.
Last week in the Capitol:
- We officially have two players in the game for school funding this week with the House releasing its plan for HB 3, which is a mixed bag. We’re excited about the infusion of $6.3 billion for our public schools but have grave concerns about provisions creating a merit pay program for our underpaid teachers. We also have concerns about measures in the bill that increase the unelected commissioner of education’s power. Watch this space on how things develop, as HB 3 is sure to be a major issue for the remainder of the session.
- The Senate passed SB 3 out earlier this week, which establishes a permanent $5,000 raise for all teachers and librarians. Texas AFT will continue to fight to include ALL public school employees in the raise. The bill is unlikely to gain much traction in the House, which is focused on its own plan.
- Both chambers proposed priority bills this week to increase pension contributions with the goal of making the pension actuarially sound and eventually allowing for cost-of-living increases for retired educators. HB 9 would increase the state contribution to 8.8 percent, making no changes to what current members or school districts contribute. The Senate proposed SB 12 with a similar actuarial aim, but it would spread the increased contribution among employees, districts, and the state. Texas AFT will be supporting the HB 9 version, as it closes the state’s commitment gap while providing real relief for retirees.
- Several school safety bills were also heard in the Senate Education Committee this week, with the most prominent one being SB 11, which is the Senate’s wide-ranging proposal based on Gov. Abbott’s school safety commission.
- On Tuesday a thorough hearing was held on the misalignment of STAAR tests to curriculum standards and STAAR’s impact on students and districts. The extensive testimony ranged from substantive discussions on the difference in performance of students on national tests, to the emotional stories of parents and teachers who have been frustrated by a less-than-fair test of grade-level skills. While there was no resolution in the committee, several members seemed shocked by the degree to which STAAR is intended not to measure current grade level aptitude, but rather to be predictive of future post-secondary and career success.
The Week Ahead:
We’re only days away from our 2019 rally on the Capitol steps and it’s shaping up to be the perfect time to come to Austin to talk to legislators. We can’t wait to see you in Austin on Monday joining us to keep the focus on the 5.4 million school children as well as the employees and families across Texas who count on having the best public schools!
On Tuesday, the House will have its first public hearing on HB 3 to get into the nitty-gritty on the bill. Then on Wednesday, the committee will hear a slew of bills on other issues ranging from concussions to ensuring more students are taught by certified teachers.
Great Bill of the Week
We all know it takes the ENTIRE public education team to educate a child, and Texas AFT is happy to see that freshman representative Jessica Gonzalez (D-Dallas) is ready to fight for all of us with HB 3274 that makes sure ALL public education employees make at least $15/hour. Our public school employees work very hard for 5.4 million children, and Texas owes them a living wage.
We’ll be back with another Weekly Briefing next Friday!